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Scale and diversity of the physical technosphere: A geological perspective

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journal contribution
posted on 01.02.2018, 10:06 by Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams, Colin N. Waters, AD Barnosky, J Palmesino, AS Rönnskog, Matt Edgeworth, C Neal, A Cearreta, EC Ellis, J Grinevald, P Haff, JA Ivar do Sul, C Jeandel, R Leinfelder, JR McNeill, E Odada, N Oreskes, SJ Price, A Revkin, W Steffen, C Summerhayes, D Vidas, S Wing, AP Wolfe
We assess the scale and extent of the physical technosphere, defined here as the summed material output of the contemporary human enterprise. It includes active urban, agricultural and marine components, used to sustain energy and material flow for current human life, and a growing residue layer, currently only in small part recycled back into the active component. Preliminary estimates suggest a technosphere mass of approximately 30 trillion tonnes (Tt), which helps support a human biomass that, despite recent growth, is ~5 orders of magnitude smaller. The physical technosphere includes a large, rapidly growing diversity of complex objects that are potential trace fossils or ‘technofossils’. If assessed on palaeontological criteria, technofossil diversity already exceeds known estimates of biological diversity as measured by richness, far exceeds recognized fossil diversity, and may exceed total biological diversity through Earth’s history. The rapid transformation of much of Earth’s surface mass into the technosphere and its myriad components underscores the novelty of the current planetary transformation.

History

Citation

Anthropocene Review, 2017, 4 (1), pp. 9-22

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/School of Geography, Geology and the Environment

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Anthropocene Review

Publisher

SAGE Publications

issn

2053-0196

eissn

2053-020X

Copyright date

2016

Available date

01/02/2018

Publisher version

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2053019616677743

Language

en